Blow to British racing as Sheikh Fahad places his Longholes operation in Newmarket, Suffolk up for sale for £6 million to spend more time in California
The impact of the coronavirus pandemic was always going set to cause havoc for the racing industry, but alongside news this week that prominent racehorse owners the Rooney family are to quit National Hunt racing for good, it has been announced that 30-year-old Sheikh Fahad Bin Abdullah Al Thani has put his Longholes stud, near Newmarket in Suffolk on the market.
Billed as a place for “preparing champions” and run by a “dedicated team” focused on pre-training and rehabilitation, Longholes was founded by the Accrington born “playboy” textile heir and racehorse breeder Sir George Bullough (1870 – 1939) in the 1920s and bought by Sheikh Fahad in 2013.
Comprising of 217 acres of paddocks, schooling grounds and a 6-furlong gallop, the “renowned Newmarket stud farm” – which is 16 miles from Cambridge and 70 miles from London – includes not only 88 boxes, but also what has been described as a state-of-the-art “feel good factor” spa with hydro and water treadmill facilities amongst other things. There is a stud manager’s house, a guest cottage, a pair of staff bungalows and a pair of workers’ log cabins also.
Of why the property is now for sale, David Redvers, racing and bloodstock advisor to the Sheikh – whom married an American named Melissa Margolis in 2018 and is choosing to spend more time in California as a result – told the Newmarket Journal on Friday:
“Sheikh Fahad purchased Longholes in 2013 with a view to turning the attractive and historic stud farm into a state-of-the-art pre-training and rehabilitation establishment servicing the requirements of his own Qatar Racing and also the wider training centre of Newmarket. Seven years later and Longholes boasts an incredible array of modern facilities, an outstanding team of committed and highly trained professional staff and a client list that boasts many of the most recognised names in horse racing, eventing and show jumping.”
“Sheikh Fahad is proud of what has been achieved at Longholes but a change in his own personal circumstances means that the farm’s exciting future now needs to be in another’s hands.”
Speaking to Nick Luck of Racing TV in April 2019, Sheikh Fahad remarked:
“We love horses, we’ve grown up with horses, me and my brothers. The idea was always to build something for the future, hopefully the long-term future, for generations to come. I’d like to see my kids grow up into a dynasty of breeding operations, of racing operations that they can take on from there.”
“I watched I think, my early memories… I watched Channel 4 Racing, I think the Cheltenham Festival. It was very different to racing back home. We only had one racetrack and it was flat racing and they go round in the circle. My dad was the leading Arab racehorse owner in the country, so he won everything. It seemed like it was that easy to do and I started watching racing here and I saw all the different racecourses and National Hunt. And we don’t have National Hunt back home, so I was very curious about the whole industry. I wanted to learn as much as possible from every angle of it.”
“I think the quality of racing, as you watch racing around the world, the biggest quality of racing is in England and Ireland in terms of top-class racing… It is good for the breed, it shows the best horses to breed onwards. The classics in Britain always prove to be the best source of that.”
Of the flaws of British racing in general and perhaps hinting at a move to spending more time participating in American racing, the Sheikh continued:
“It needs to up its game. It needs to find ways to attract more people into the sport. At the moment we are very grateful for the Sheikh Mohammeds in the business… Without Sheikh Mohammed [Bin Rashid Al Maktoum], this year would have been a disaster for a lot of people. The thing is that British racing needs to find more ways to attract quality. I think quality is very important.”
“If you look at, for instance, Japanese racing, they have got a two-tier system. They have the JRA and the NRA. The JRA is the elite class of racehorses and horse racing and I think if you don’t break your maiden as a three year-old, then I think, that horse is not allowed to run in the JRA anymore. They have to go down to the NRA. Why can’t that some way be explored in British racing? We can’t be racing, I think you’re asking people to race for two grand or three grand… whilst in Australia they have Saturday races with a minimum of a hundred grand a race. And in America, maidens are worth a hundred grand. And in California, I’ve got horses, and it seems ridiculous that, if you are taking a business point of view of racing and you open your books, that it would be ridiculous to have horses [in Britain] in comparison to there. The only reason we’re racing here is for the quality and prestige that we have at the moment, but you can’t rest on that. You have to change.”
Later, in September 2019, the Sheikh’s Californian trainer, Simon Callaghan, told The Racing Post:
“Sheikh Fahad is upping his interest in racing in America. He’s spending more time in California, so he wants to go after some of these high-end colts and go down the road of the Derby, we hope… I think his Californian wife has something to do with it.”
Agents Windsor Clive seek £6 million ($7.5 million, €6.8 million or درهم27.4 million) for Longholes and offer it as a whole or in two lots. For the firm, George Windsor Clive remarked: “We’re still bringing Longholes to the market in these strange times [in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic] so that buyers can react quickly once restrictions are lifted.”
For now, the other European racing operations of the Sheikh and his brothers and their Qatar Racing Ltd. company – which includes a presence at the David Redvers owned Tweenhills Farm in Gloucestershire and their own Spring Lodge stud farm in County Limerick – remain unaffected.
2yo turf: Roaring Lion – 36 wins and 64 placed from 218 runs.
3yo turf: Roaring Lion – 40 wins and 45 placed from 222 runs.
2yo AW: Kameko – 10 wins and 23 placed from 72 runs.
3yo AW: Fierce Impact – 12 wins and 36 placed from 96 runs.
Pictured top: Sheikh Fahad Bin Abdullah Al Thani with his wife Sheikha Melissa Al Fahad.